Despite lingering resistance in Congress, the Bush administration
is charging ahead with its plans to cancel the Army’s controversial,
$11 billion Crusader artillery system and accelerate development
of other ways of providing fire support for future U.S. ground forces.
For fiscal 2003, for example, the administration has proposed reallocating
$476.6 million from the Crusader program to alternative technologies.
According to the president’s plan, the funds would be redistributed
•$310 million for the Army’s next-generation Future
Combat System, including $115 million for the Net Fires precision-attack
•$48.3 million for the Excalibur family of precision-guided
munitions, which is compatible with three existing artillery systems—the
Paladin M-109A6 155 mm self-propelled howitzer and two towed guns,
the British-made XM-777 lightweight 155 mm howitzer and the older,
heavier M-198 155 howitzer.
•$45 million for a new variant of the Guided Multiple Launch
•$28.6 million to complete development of a new engine for
the existing Abrams M1 tank, formerly a joint program with the Crusader.
•$11.4 million to speed up work on targeting capabilities
for the Army’s Tactical Unmanned Vehicle.
•$10.8 million for the new XM-395 120 mm Precision Guided
•$10 million for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System.
•$7.5 million to upgrade the Paladin’s electronic systems.
•$4 million to complete development of the Advanced Field
Artillery Tactical Data System, which is intended to improve command
and control of indirect fire-support systems.
No one weapon, however, will fill the Crusader’s tracks entirely,
warned Col. Michael V. Cuff, head of the Futures Development Integration
Center, at the Army’s Field Artillery Center in Fort Sill,
“Nothing is going to replace Crusader, as Crusader was,”
he told the Seventh International Artillery and Indirect Fire Symposium,
held in Parsipany, N.J., and sponsored by the National Defense Industrial
A Combination of Systems
Instead, he said, it will probably take a combination of systems
to provide the full spectrum of fire support that U.S. combat soldiers
will continue to need in future wars, as they have in the past.
By mixing and matching existing and planned weapons systems, however,
the Army will be able to provide that support, he said.
The Army will need a combination of guns and missiles, Donald C.
Baker, deputy program executive officer for tactical missiles, told
the symposium. “Missiles can’t do everything. Guns can’t
do everything. A mix is necessary to make sure that all of our lethality
needs are met.”
Since Napoleonic times, soldiers have relied upon massive artillery
fire to blunt enemy ground attacks and to destroy their defenses.
The Crusader is the latest version being developed for the U.S.
Army. It is an automatic-loading, self-propelled, 155 mm howitzer,
designed by United Defense LP, of Arlington, Va., to replace the
40-year-old, manual-loading M-109 series of cannons, made by the
same company. The latest of these is the Paladin, which was introduced
A howitzer is a relatively short, mobile, large-caliber cannon,
capable of firing directly into the face of attacking enemy forces
or indirectly—high into the air—to reach far behind
obstacles, such as trees, mountains and fortifications.
Although self-propelled howitzers resemble tanks, they are not
designed to fight like tanks. Rather than engage in fast-moving,
close combat, they typically employ a tactic called “shoot
and scoot.” They move into position, lob shells at distant
targets, then head on to another site, before the enemy can return
The administration, however, decided that the Crusader was too
heavy and lacked precision fire. Although the Army already has expended
$2 billion on the project, the administration decided to stop it
in its tracks. Instead, the administration opted to speed up work
on a variety of new technologies that will “enable us to fight
and win wars in the 21st century,” according to Defense Secretary
Donald H. Rumsfeld.
For example, the administration proposes to extend the range and
accuracy of the M-109 Paladin—the Army’s current SPH—by
adapting it to fire the Excalibur. This new set of munitions would
extend the Paladin’s range by 30 percent, Michael Wynne, principal
deputy undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics,
told a Pentagon briefing.
It would improve accuracy by reducing dispersion of shell fragments
from 370 meters for traditional artillery projectiles to 10 meters
for Excalibur, Wynne said.
The Excalibur is a new, long-range, 155-mm, fin-stabilized projectile,
which uses global-positioning system (GPS) technology to find its
targets on the first round, according to its developer, Raytheon
Company, of Lexington, Mass. Wynne said he hopes the Army can field
the munition in 2006.
The Excalibur also can be used both by the M-198 155 mm howitzer
currently employed by the Army and Marines and by the XM-777 lightweight
155 mm gun that the services are considering as a replacement.
Like the M-198, the XM-777 is a towed howitzer, but—at 9,200
pounds—it is much lighter than the 16,000-pound M-198, noted
Army Col. Carlos Rodriguez, commander of the 18th Field Artillery
Brigade (Airborne), at Ford Bragg, N.C.
That makes it very deployable, Rodriguez told the artillery symposium.
The XM-777 can be towed by a vehicle as small as a 2.5-ton truck,
airlifted by helicopter and transported from ship to shore by an
LCAC (air-cushioned landing craft), he said.
The two services are scheduled to decide in October whether to
go into full-rate production, with the Marines to receive the first
deliveries at the end of 2004. The XM-777’s developer—BAE
Systems, of the United Kingdom—has leased a 54,000 square
foot facility in Hattiesburg, Miss., to serve as the program’s
final-assembly point. More than 700 howitzers are to be built in
Hattiesburg between 2004 and 2010, according to BAE spokesman John
The Army’s new Brigade Combat Teams taking shape at Fort
Lewis, Wash., will use lightweight howitzers, said E. Carroll Gagnon,
deputy program officer for ground combat and support systems. “The
question is what size will they be—155s, 120s or 105s? My
guess is that it will be somewhere among the three.”
The teams also will have Mobile Gun Systems—variations of
the BCT’s Stryker light armored vehicles—equipped with105
mm cannon. The MGS is not a personnel carrier or a tank, said Lt.
Col. Jack Reiff, project manager for the system. “It’s
an infantry support platform.” With its 105 mm gun, “it
definitely can make an infantry-size hole in a concrete wall,”
big enough for soldiers to pass through, he said.
GM GDLS Defense Group, a joint venture between General Motors and
General Dynamics Land Systems, was scheduled to deliver the first
10 MGS vehicles by January 2003.
Whatever weapon is used, recent experience in Afghanistan has proven
the importance of accuracy, Cuff said. “This enemy will get
as close to us as possible to make it difficult to call in covering
fire,” he said.
To increase the accuracy of its Multiple Launch Rocket System,
the Army is installing a GPS-aided inertial guidance package in
the weapon. At White Sands Missile Range, N.M., this June, the service
and the developer—Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control,
based in Dallas—conducted the first of five production-qualification
tests on the Guided MLRS, as new system is known. “This first
flight was outstanding,” said Ron Abbott, the company’s
vice president for fire support.
The guidance package transforms the MLRS freeflight rocket into
a precision-guided weapon, Abbott explained. The Guided MLRS will
have a range of more than 70 kilometers. It can be launched from
the M-270A1 weapons platform, a variant of the tracked Bradley Fighting
The M-270A1 carries 12 rockets, which can be fired in rapid ripples.
The system weighs about 55,000 pounds, meaning it can be airlifted
only on large transports, such as the C-5 and C-141.
The Guided MLRS also can be launched from Lockheed Martin’s
High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, which is being tested by
both the Army and the Marines. The XM-142 HIMARS launcher, a version
of the Army’s new Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles, weighs
24,000 pounds. Thus, unlike the M-270A1, the HIMARS is transportable
on smaller C-130 aircraft, which can land on short, austere airstrips.
The HIMARS carries a six pack of GMLRS rockets or one Army Tactical
Missile System, which has a range of more than 165 kilometers. Lockheed
Martin successfully fired an ATACMS Block 1A missile in March at
The company was scheduled to deliver the first two HIMARS launchers
to the Marines in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2002. In June, it
received a $1.4 million, five-year contract to provide spares, supply
and maintenance services for the vehicles.
The Army plans to move up the date for fielding the XM-395 Precision
Guided Mortar Munition by two years—from 2008 to 2006—said
Lt. Col. Larry Hollingsworth, the Army’s project manager for
mortars. The PGMM presents “a tremendous growth opportunity,”
he told the symposium. “If you’re looking for business,
I think precision-guided mortars is the place to start.”
Last October, Lockheed Martin and Germany’s Diehl concluded
an advanced technology demonstration for the PGMM. In the spring
of 2003, the Army plans to conduct a competition to select a contractor
to continue the munition’s development.
The PGMM is designed to hit within three feet of targets at 12
to 15 kilometers—double the range of conventional 120 mm mortar
rounds—Hollingsworth explained. It is compatible with the
M-120 towed 120 mm mortar and the M-121 mortar, which is mounted
on United Defense’s M-1064A3 mortar carrier.
Mortars are much lighter than other forms of artillery, Hollingsworth
noted. With precision-guided munitions, the mortar will be the ground
commander’s “hip-pocket” indirect-fire weapon.
“People are beginning to realize that mortars are the best
way to deliver fire support to light infantry,” Hollingsworth
Net Fires is a containerized, vertically-launched, indirect-fire
rocket system being tested by the Defense Advanced Research Projects
Agency. Sometimes called “rockets in a box,” Net Fires
is designed to be platform independent, said Program Manager Brad
The Net Fires container can be mounted on the ground, a Humvee
utility vehicle or the Future Combat System, now being designed
as part of the Army’s planned objective force. Each system
has 16 sections, with 15 of them holding rockets and the last containing
command and control equipment.
Net Fires has two kinds of rockets. One is a precision-attack missile
being developed by Raytheon. The other is a loitering attack missile,
being designed jointly by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. It is intended
to hover in the air for up to half an hour, identify its target
and attack when ready.
Testing of Net Fires will continue until 2004, when the Army will
decide whether to continue the program, Tousley said. If the system
is successful, it could be ready for deployment in 2008.
The FCS, scheduled to be fielded in 2010, is envisioned as a networked
system of manned and unmanned platforms that will be capable of
conducting a wide range of missions, including assault, indirect
fires, air defense, reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition,
and battle command and communications.
Exactly what it will look like, however, is far from clear at this
point, said Cuff. “One of the things that we have to do before
we start building is come up with a design,” he said. “What
goes into the FCS duffle bag?”
This spring, DARPA and the Army selected a team consisting of the
Boeing Company, of Anaheim, Calif., and Science Applications International
Corporation, of San Diego—to answer that question. The team
will service as lead systems integrator for the concept and technology-development
phase of the $5 billion project.
During this phase, which is scheduled to end in the third quarter
of fiscal year 2003, the LSI team will develop the overall design
for the FCS.
Meanwhile, two additional industry teams, one led by Raytheon and
the other by Lockheed Martin, received $6 million contracts to develop
and begin testing the FCS’ Multi-Role Armament and Ammunition
System. MRAAS is designed to fire three kinds of rounds—anti-armor,
guided medium-range and guided extended-range.
A few days earlier, General Dynamics Land Systems, of Sterling
Heights, Mich., won a $30 million, three-year assignment to build
an MRAAS Turret Mission Module Weapon Control System. This system
is intended to provide weapon-pointing control, accuracy and fires
efficiency, while operating in direct and indirect-fire modes with
the new munitions and gun systems, according to company officials.
Congress, meanwhile, is not finished entirely with the Crusader.
The two houses have passed 2003 defense spending bills that differ
on the Crusader’s fate. A House version, written by Rep. J.C.
Watts, R-Okla., fully funds the Crusader and bars termination of
the program until 2003.
The Senate bill transfers funding from the Crusader to other methods
of providing indirect fires. Before that can happen, however, the
Senate bill requires the Defense Department to conduct an analysis
of all alternatives, including the Crusader.
The two houses will appoint a conference committee to work out
the differences. President Bush, however, has served notice that
he will veto any bill that continues funding for the Crusader.
Whatever happens, artillery will to continue play an important
role in combat, Gagnon said. “Artillery has been the king
of battle for centuries,” he said. “It will continue
to do so in the future. I don’t see a change in that.”